Sunday, January 19, 2014

Over So Soon

With one mighty strike, Chevis Davis Chitwood’s husband was felled from his position at the local railroad company. As quickly as he came into Chevis’ life, he went out.

Perhaps it was from grief—or the suddenness of the traumatic news—that Chevis was unable to provide information as basic as her husband’s parents’ names. Each line in the death certificate was filled in with the same word: “unknown.”

I had, from the Davis family Bible, a note that H. M. Chitwood was born in a place called Oakdale, Tennessee. Oakdale was quite a distance from the town of Erwin where the Davis family lived, making me wonder if it was solely on account of his railroad work that Harvey Chitwood was even in town at all.

The date of his birth—at least the version I’ve found in our family Bible—was May 3, 1875. Of course, there are documents out there disputing the record-keeping skills of my great-grandmother, so I’ll have to do some more work to confirm that.

I’d like to think the date of Harvey M. Chitwood's death was etched in stone, but apparently, his burial site at Jobe Cemetery has no headstone to mark it. Unlike the family of my husband’s relative who suddenly lost his life in a similar manner, Harvey Chitwood’s wife was not in any position to pursue redress from the as yet unnamed railroad company implicated in her husband’s violent end. With a baby due in a matter of months, the poor widow probably had too many other pressing financial needs to provide any type of permanent memorial for her deceased husband.

Life, of course, does go on, and for Chevis, either time healed all heartbreak, or financial desperation pressed her to seek a union more practical than romantic. Whatever the truth of the matter, on December 17,1916, the former Chevis Davis Chitwood became the new Mrs. F. L. Kite.


  1. I've not looked at the "dates" carefully - but perhaps her marriage was a "shot gun" one - perhaps she was pregnant and forced into it - and that is what the family is so circumspect about? While we need to keep the views and prejudices of the "age" in mind as historians - it is sometimes difficult to even know about them, let alone understand them.

    1. Now, that brings up an interesting point, Iggy. I haven't gotten to this yet, but let me add one bit of info to the mix here: there wasn't an angry Papa there at the time to take up Chevis' case and make any such thing right. Chevis' dad passed away in 1911, long before any such action on his part might be required.

      However, a closer look at the dates seems to indicate that no such threats need have been made at all. The attitude, as passed down to me, seems to have originated with an in-law who wasn't even part of this extended family at that time. For whatever reason, she assumed a disapproving air about the entire family, which was somehow passed down through the generations to me. It certainly was enlightening to find out the truth about the incident.

  2. Lots of unknowns, perhaps he didn't talk about his parents:)

    1. Well, I've tried to tidy up those messy unknowns, but I still have a long way to go! Considering his age at marriage, he likely was long out of his parents' home.

      Another possibility--which I have yet to confirm--is that his mother, herself, was widowed and remarried.

      With a father possibly out of the picture for a long time, and a mother far removed from any use of her maiden name, his parentage might have presented too much of a challenge for a distraught young pregnant widow in the sudden rush of such bad news.


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